SIKESTON -- It isn't just about fast horses, fancy moves or even fun. When it comes to the Scott County 4-H Rodeo Club, club members and the adults behind the group agree there is a lot of learning going on.
Responsibility, leadership and character are just a few of the qualities the Scott County 4-H Rodeo Club tries to instill in its members, said John Anderson, current adult club leader.
"This club is run by the kids. All the decisions regarding concerns or issues with calls the judges made, or the way a rodeo is run is all conducted by the kids. The adults are there just to supervise and handle any situations that are out of the kid's hands," said Anderson.
Ranging in age from 8 to 18, members are expected to keep in shape and practice their skills day-in and day-out. They are responsible for their livestock, making sure animals are fed and watered daily and exercising horses.
"I think the rodeo atmosphere and caring for their livestock teaches these kids a sense of compassion and a natural understanding of nature," Anderson said. "These kid's practice hard and play hard when it comes to the rodeo arena and should be commended on the responsibility so many of them portray."
There are more than eight events at each rodeo, ranging from steer riding to barrel racing to calf roping. Most club members compete in five or more events at each rodeo and this season there will be eight rodeos including the 4-H finals, which determines year-end point standings.
While each rodeo has an entry fee, contestants also get paid on how well they do. Most of the rodeos pay the top three in each event.
This level of competition gives the youngsters a chance to get started in the sport and a chance to grow along the way. For many, they wouldn't be given the opportunity to rodeo if it weren't for the 4-H program.
"When I first started I wasn't really good and as time went on the 4-H program built my self-esteem. It also let me meet new people and get to know a lot of good people who have helped me along the way," said Andrew Cowger, who's been active in the club for nine years.
This year's membership of 50 is a big jump from last year's 21 members. Anderson explained: "One reason for the low numbers last season was the new safety requirements, making the kids wear helmets in each of the events.
"A lot of people didn't agree with this rule even though it was for their own safety, so many decided not to join." But with a new season approaching there are fresh new faces the Scott County 4-H club.
Brent Menz is heading up the group as their president. "I chose to run for president of the club, so I could get order back in the club, and try to get it to grow and reach out to more members," Menz said.
Helping in his efforts are: Andrew Cowger, vice president; Mami Williams and Mallory Cowger, reporters; Kirsten Anderson, treasurer; and Andrea Duncan, secretary. The assistant adult club leader is Angie Duncan.
Donna Taake, 4-H youth specialist, also praised the adults involved.
"The club has grown because of the excellent club leadership that is portrayed," she said. "John is very enthusiastic and is able to reach out to the youth and to new families that haven't been involved before."
Those interested in watching Scott County's young cowboys and cowgirls compete locally can do so Aug. 21 when the club hosts the Scott County 4-H Rodeo at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo Grounds.
Anderson wanted to make sure the Jaycees were commended on their efforts on behalf of the 4-H program.
"The 4-H works closely with the Jaycees and appreciates their efforts from helping out with the rodeo to letting us use their facilities for our monthly meetings. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have a facility here in the county to hold our annual rodeo," said Anderson.
"So from all of us in the 4-H, thanks."